Freedoms are returning to southern states as Adelaide emerges early from a “circuit-breaker” lockdown and Victoria is poised for final steps out of COVID-19 restrictions.
In positive signs that Australians could enjoy a COVID-free Christmas, low infections in Victoria, South Australia and NSW have prompted the lifting of more rules.
Premier Daniel Andrews is expected on Sunday to announce that gathering limits will be loosened to allow 50 people outdoors and 10 people in the home.
Weddings, funerals and indoor religious gatherings can have 100 people and restaurants can expand to 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors.
The state is on the cusp of eradicating the virus with just one active case following 22 days of no transmission.
Overnight, Victoria replaced its brief “hard border” with South Australia with a permit system.
NSW and the ACT are due to open their borders to Victoria on Monday.
SA lockdown ends
In Adelaide, only one new case was recorded on Saturday – the partner of a positive case – bringing the Parafield outbreak to 26.
The state’s hard and sudden lockdown ended three days early on midnight Saturday but Premier Steven Marshall said he was still “very concerned”, with authorities yet to trace about 40 people.
“The expert health advice we have received is that we are still managing a very dangerous cluster,” Mr Marshall said.
“Although we are reducing those restrictions, we are still very concerned. There are still many people that we need to identify.”
SA’s Commissioner Grant Stevens said investigators were speaking to the pizza shop worker who sparked the lockdown after lying to contact tracers.
He is believed to be a 36-year-old Spaniard living in Australia on a temporary graduate visa.
“It is fair to say that had this person been more up front with us we would not have instituted a six-day lockdown,” Mr Stevens said.
Police issued 60 fines and 103 cautions to South Australians caught breaching COVID-19 rules.
NSW has marked a fortnight without a local coronavirus case and is edging towards the 28 infection-free days demanded by Queensland before it re-opens its border.
Ten virus cases diagnosed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday were travellers in quarantine.
“While there have been no new locally acquired cases in NSW for the past 14 days, we continue to encourage people to get tested, even if they display only the mildest of symptoms such as a runny nose, scratchy throat, cough or fever,” NSW Health’s Dr Jan Fizzell said.
Victoria will begin to share the burden of international travellers from December 7 with a revised hotel quarantine system. Initially, it will take 160 people a day.
Meanwhile, Victorian authorities are concerned about traces of the virus unexpectedly found at a Melbourne wastewater facility, prompting a plea for residents and visitors to Altona in Melbourne’s southwest from last Monday to Wednesday to get tested if symptomatic.
The result is unexpected because it has been about eight weeks since someone in the area tested positive.
Suburbs in the catchment include Altona, Altona Meadows, Laverton, Point Cook and Sanctuary Lakes.